Ricoh's GR Digital gets a boost
Ricoh’s approach to the digital market has been different, to say the least, with its slower pace resulting in a well-received albeit quirky batch of models that have satisfied both the entry-level and enthusiast sides of the market.
The GR Digital II follows the GR Digital released in October 2005, with its upgrades seeming to address its technological capabilities rather than a barrage of new features.
Two main improvements lie at the heart of the new model: a new processing engine and a new CCD sensor, the latter of which adds two megapixels to the resolution to make an effective 10MP. And, alongside JPEG capture, Ricoh has also adopted Adobe’s DNG format for Raw shooting.
The LCD screen sees a boost in size and resolution, now at 2.7 inches and 230,000 pixels, but other than this, little is cosmetically different from the model it replaces. The fixed lens retains its 28mm focal length and large f/2.4 aperture, and while the camera itself doesn’t have a viewfinder, a hotshoe mounted type may also be bought separately.
As with the GR and GX100 models, the body of the GR II has been constructed from magnesium alloy to provide a perfect match for the camera’s impressive specifications.
One area in which the camera does excel in, though, is its writing times; each Raw file measures around 14.4MB when closed, and the camera does a great job of quickly writing each one to the memory card. Ricoh states that the camera’s buffer memory has also been expanded and that Raw writing speed has been improved, compared to the GR Digital.
Battery life is also said to last almost 1.5x longer, now capable of up to 370 shots on a full charge. The camera lacks the manic quality of certain Caplio models, powering up in just over two seconds, and while the camera focuses fairly swiftly, as with its start-up, it does this a little too loudly. With its wide and bright lens I didn’t think that the lack of image stabilisation would be an issue, but the image noise at higher sensitivities made us more apprehensive at going higher than ISO 400 when shooting handheld.
Much like the model itself, images from the GR II are fairly unique. At lower sensitivities, resolution is good and colour is pleasing. Go any further than ISO 400 and a combination of noise and jagged edge detail gives images a murky and over-processed texture that is less easy on the eye. Images show a considerable shift for the worse at ISO 800, as the over-zealous Noise Reduction system kicks in to obliterate fine detail and sharpness.
In studio conditions, the white balance displays inconsistencies between shots taken in succession, and while this is less noticeable in general use where a range of factors will determine final colour rendition, unusual colour casts still occasionally show (such as the warm, magenta cast over the lighter tones, right).
Thankfully, the lens displays few signs of distortion, with fringing also well controlled and both edge and corner sharpness impressive, too. Ultimately, there is a noticeable difference between JPEGs straight from the camera and Raw images, and so you’ll need to put some effort in to post-processing your Raw files if you want to get the best results.
The understated style and competent specifications of the GR II are likely to appeal to the more serious photographer – or perhaps even as a backup camera for travel photographers – but one that is equally happy to post-process Raw images from the camera, or use low-ISO JPEGs. At this sort of price, you should be able to expect a camera with a greater degree of reliability, and one that can be used in a variety of conditions with confidence. It is a shame, therefore, that its wayward white balance system and noisy images mean that the GR II just isn’t it. As these issues mainly concern image processing, we may be addressed in a future Ricoh offering.